Bryan McCabe wasted no time coming down to earth Thursday.
A few hours after leading Team Canada to an undefeated romp through the World Junior Tournament, McCabe was back home in Calgary, on the phone with Spokane Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz.
McCabe was the World Junior Tournament’s top defenseman and a first-team all-star.
That’s the good news.
The better news, at least for Chiefs fans, is that McCabe won’t take a week off as previously announced but will be in Spokane for Saturday night’s game in the Coliseum with the Kamloops Blazers.
The timetable for McCabe’s arrival was fast-forwarded when the Canadians wrapped up their third straight world championship on Monday night, Speltz said.
“We thought originally that today (Thursday) would be hectic for him - we thought everything (in the way of celebration) would take place then - but the hectic day was Tuesday.”
With a 4-3 win over Sweden on Wednesday night in Red Deer, Alberta, the team became the first from Canada to go unbeaten at the world juniors.
“It did mean a lot to us,” McCabe said. “We really wanted to make history.”
Chiefs coach Mike Babcock said, “We can’t begin to tell him how proud we are. What he did was incredible. We all feel great that he worked hard and made it happen. We just hope that when he comes back his energy lifts our game.”
The Chiefs are trying to catch Prince George for the final playoff spot out of the Western Hockey League West.
McCabe will get a break when the Chiefs go a week and a half between starts from Jan. 29 to Feb. 8, Speltz said.
The power play, among other areas, suffered in McCabe’s absence (“It hasn’t been a quarter as good,” Babcock said). But the key is not to expect too much from one player.
“Sean Gillam picked up his game while Bryan was gone,” Babcock said. “We have to get him to continue doing the same thing with Bryan back.”
The Chiefs are as close to full strength as they’ve been all year.
Although forward Derek Descoteau is out for the year and defenseman Joel Boschman will need another month to recover from a knee injury, Hugh Hamilton, Mike Haley, Randy Favaro and Jay Bertsch were suited for Wednesday night’s Tri-City game.
All have been hampered or sidelined with injuries.
Descoteau, who showed flashes of brilliance until he separated his shoulder, will require surgery that will keep him out for the season.
Descoteau (pronounced Dekota) is back home in Medicine Hat, Alberta. He eventually plans to enroll in college, Speltz said.
This was Descoteau’s 19-year-old season. It’s doubtful he’ll turn pro or return to the WHL as an overage player next season, Speltz said.
Chiefs cooking at the gate
The Chiefs are last in the West, but you’d never know it from the size of the crowds.
Spokane is drawing 4,098 a game in its last year in the Coliseum, up slightly from the club-record 4,025 of a year ago.
The Chiefs rank fifth in the WHL in attendance, behind only Portland, Kamloops, Red Deer and Saskatoon.
The Winter Hawks draw crowds in the mid-6,000 range in Portland. It’ll be interesting to see how Spokane compares to that next year, when the Chiefs move into new Veterans Arena.
Three dot stuff …
Defenseman Rob Sandrock is back in Kimberly, British Columbia, after a brief stint in Spokane last week… . Former Chiefs goalkeeper Scott Bailey has been selected to play in the American Hockey League all-star game Jan. 17 in Providence. Bailey is with the Providence Bruins… . Tri-City Americans assistant coach Pat Loyer played briefly for the Spokane Chiefs in the 1985-86 season… . Ten of Spokane’s 39 games have gone into overtime.